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Llantarnam Abbey

A Grade II* Listed Building in Llantarnam, Torfaen

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.6308 / 51°37'50"N

Longitude: -2.9961 / 2°59'45"W

OS Eastings: 331151

OS Northings: 192913

OS Grid: ST311929

Mapcode National: GBR J5.8K2N

Mapcode Global: VH7B6.08YN

Entry Name: Llantarnam Abbey

Listing Date: 6 June 1962

Last Amended: 30 September 2003

Grade: II*

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 85246

Location: In extensive grounds on the E side of Llantarnam. Approached along a drive E from Newport Road under the Cwmbran By-pass.

County: Torfaen

Community: Llantarnam

Community: Llantarnam

Locality: Cwmbran

Traditional County: Monmouthshire

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History

Substantial country house, C16, recased and remodelled inside in 1834-6 by T.H. Wyatt, now nunnery. On site of a Cistercian Abbey dissolved in 1536, the mansion was built after William Morgan of Pentrebach bought the abbey lands in 1554, he was MP and High Sheriff, and died 1582. His son Edward (1548-1633), also MP and High Sheriff, was notable as one of the most principled Catholics of the period, fined repeatedly for this. He may have been the builder as a 1588 date was noted on the house in 1799. His son Sir Edward, first baronet, supported the Catholic cause, was a noted Royalist in the Civil War and died in 1653. His son Sir Edward, 2nd baronet, (died 1682 ), also a Catholic, gave shelter to Saint David Lewis (1616-79), the Jesuit priest burnt at Usk. From 1682 through the C18 the house was intermittently occupied, descending to two sisters, Mrs Blewitt and Mrs Fettiplace, and thence to Reginald John Blewitt. It was in decay in 1799 when Coxe saw it and noted a 1588 date on the porch. Blewitt (1790-1878) rebuilt the mansion in 1834-6, recasing the exterior in Bath stone in a Tudor to Jacobean style, and remodelling the interior. He was a barrister, founder of the Monmouthshire Merlin 1829, the Monmouth and Glamorgan Bank 1837, Mayor of Newport 1837-8 and MP 1837-51, but his renovation of the house costing supposedly £60,000 and the collapse of the bank in 1851 led to his exile abroad 1851-68. There were additions for Blewitt, presumably before 1851, probably the dining-room and the very large octagonal conservatory (demolished c. 1946). The estate went into chancery for many years. Offered for sale 1888, when owned by a nephew, Mr Downing, who sold it in 1895 to Sir Clifford Cory, chairman of the Cardiff coal owners and exporters, Cory Bros. & Co., MP for St Ives, High Sheriff 1905. Cory added the block of marble-lined bathrooms off the stair hall. After his death in 1941 used as an American Army depot. Bought by the Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy in 1946, as their British headquarters, or Provincialate, replacing a house on Stow Hill, Newport used since 1873. The house was restored, a new chapel built 1957 on the site of the conservatory, the stable block was rebuilt as 2 storeys in 1950, a wing to the right of the front was added 1968, and an Infirmary Wing to the rear in 1982. The architects after 1950 were F.R. Bates, Son & Price.
This is the principal early work of T.H. Wyatt (1807-80) eminent Victorian architect, RIBA President 1870 and Gold Medallist 1873, exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1835, and the pre-eminent Welsh example of the early C19 Tudor to Jacobean revival, comparable for example with Salvin's Mamhead, Devon of 1826 and Rickman's Matfen Hall, Northumberland, 1832.
The site of the Cistercian Abbey is not known, presumed to be under the house. It was founded from Strata Florida by Hywel ap Iorwerth of Caerleon in 1179 and initially known as Caerleon Abbey. The Elizabethan house was of the same basic plan as the present one with wing projecting to right, battlement, with mullioned windows.

Exterior

Country house, Bath stone ashlar with slate roofs behind coped gables and embattled parapets. Three storeys, main 6-bay W range with porch gable to right of centre, with service rooms in 3 bays to left, and great hall in 2 bays to right. Large crosswing coming forward to right (SW) contains entrance-hall and drawing-room, and main staircase in a projecting gable to S side (left side of garden front). The S garden front has stair gable left, then set-back gable end of main range with other drawing-room (at upper end of great hall), and then low 2-storey gable over dining-room. This last is the side of a 2-storey triple-gabled rear E range that faced on to the service court. Veranda across fronts of dining-room and drawing-room. Large C20 addition running S obscures stair gable and another on E obscures the triple-gabled rear facade. Service court to rear E with towered entry on N side, the E and N ranges raised a storey in 1950. The big 1957 chapel is on S side, on conservatory site. The details are in a Tudor to Jacobean style, with leaded stone-mullion windows and flat hoodmoulds, battlements and shaped gables.
The W entrance front has three main features, an octagonal NW corner turret to left, added in 1834-6, a projecting porch gable roughly in centre, and big SW wing to right coming forward and ending in a 3-sided facade. Battlements over moulded string course. Raised plinth. The three bays to left of porch have 4-light windows with curved heads to lights, except second floor left which has oriel projection (addition of 1834-6) with corbelled base, chamfered sides, parapet with neo-Jacobean stepped curved gable with carved arms and finial, and cross-mullioned window. Left corner has roughcast octagonal turret with ashlar deep battered plinth, quoins and string course continued from battlement string course. Blank top stage with string course under high parapet with eight half-round battlements and small octagonal finials between, surrounding recessed ogee leaded dome with iron vane. Single light to ground floor W and top floor SW. Centre porch projection has stepped straight-sided gable, battlemented sides, 4 big octagonal corner finials on angle corbels, hoodmoulded loop in gable, 2-storey canted oriel of 1-2-1 lights each floor, the first floor windows longer with transom, and moulded segmental-pointed door with carved spandrels and hoodmould. Sides of porch bay have 2-storey abutments chamfered at front angles, with heavy chamfered set-offs each floor, and single light to ground floor. Door hoodmould is carved 'Hanc aedem restituit' and spandrels have shields, one marked RB, the other 1845. Double doors. To right of porch, former great hall has two 2-storey 3-light windows with transoms and two 4-light windows above, the window heads Tudor-arched (whereas those to porch are square-headed and those left of porch are curved-headed).
Cross-wing has 2 bays to N side to courtyard, left bay with door and 4-light window each floor above, right bay with 5-light to each floor. All have hoodmoulds, a single hoodmould across the two first floor windows. The doorway has sidelights and two top lights. The door has an iron Gothic knocker with Virgin and Child, dated 1516, but possibly a C19 imitation. Door surround is moulded with carved arms in strapwork surround dated 1637, possibly recarved genuine C17. W end has big ground floor bay with 4-light French window with top lights and labels dependent from moulded string. Octagonal corner turrets and finials. The two storeys above have canted corners, 4-light main window each floor, first floor single-light in each canted side, all with hoodmoulds. Moulded string and battlements, octagonal corner finials as on porch, centre stepped parapet over finely carved coat of arms. Parapet has concave curved sides and top with pierced strapwork cresting.
S front is rendered with ashlar dressings. Left gable is visible above C20 addition running S, coped with ashlar octagonal finial. It had a mullion window each floor. Parapet is returned around E side and then S over one narrow bay to left of main S gable, with single light to first and second floors. Main gable is S end of main range, with parapet and big shaped gable with ashlar shield plaque and finial. Second floor 4-light with hoodmould over big 2-storey ashlar canted bay of 2-4-2 lights, double transoms to first floor windows, single to ground floor French windows. Pierced parapet with angle finials and centre curved headed plaque with squirrel finial, heavy chamfered ashlar coping between floors. Ashlar quoins to right at second floor level. To right is added dining-room with lower slate roof, parapet and centre shaped gable. Blind loop in gable over ground floor 4-light French window with top-lights. C20 veranda To right is C20 chapel on site of conservatory.
N end of main range is rendered with 2-light mullion windows. Two-storey lean-to with first floor 2-light window.
Rear E of house is rendered with ashlar dressings. Moulded stringcourse under parapet with 3 stepped gables with finials. Left part obscured by C20 addition, 4-light upper window under centre and right gables, 4-light first floor window with taller centre lights and stepped hood aligned slightly right of left window above, and ground floor Tudor arched door with side-lights and hood to left, cross-window to right, set within a 3-bay timber veranda with Tudor detail returned E in 4-bays along a wall that links to entrance gateway to stable court. the veranda was originally open, now glazed.
Stable entrance is ashlar Tudor style gatehouse with 3-bay front. Broad Tudor-arched centre carriage entry between Tudor-arched pedestrian entries with outer octagonal piers with moulded caps, parapet and big centre stepped ogee-curved gable with copings dying into front of a thin octagonal battlemented tower with louvred lights to four main faces. Continuous stringcourse carried around outer piers, over side entries, then follows curve of main arch, stepped over a centre clock. Within carriageway are side Tudor-arched openings matching the pedestrian entries and centre fine pair of cast-iron large gates, like those in front forecourt. Attached stable court runs E and then returns S, originally one-storey, raised to 2 storeys. On S side of courtyard is 1957 chapel.

Interior

Porch has canted corners, single light stained glass armorial windows, 2 pointed niches, and encaustic tiles to floor. Tudor traceried half-glazed double doors into cross-passage. Passage has plain black and white tile floor and boarded ceiling, double Tudor doors at end to service staircase and service corridor running W with 22 bells on corridor wall. Double Tudor doors on right of cross-passage, into refectory. Refectory was the great hall, ceiled at second floor level, but now with C20 suspended ceiling. (The great hall had a plain ceiling of whitewashed beams replaced in 1836 by panelled oak ceiling, and there was also a musicians' gallery, but all said to have been removed). Painted grained fielded panelling to walls, and big blocked fireplace with thin octagonal shafts, cornice with square rosettes and 3-panel neo-Jacobean overmantel with 4 tapering strapwork piers, carved cartouches in 2 outer panels and heavily ornamented frieze. Tudor entrance doors have carved spandrels. Double Tudor doors at lower end into drawing room, also Tudor doorway to left into dining-room passage, and right into entrance hall, with carved spandrels and double doors.
Drawing room beyond refectory has French rococo style decoration though the underlying room has Tudor to Jacobean style main elements. Tudor arch from refectory with double doors, applied rococo ornament. Marble C18 French fireplace on left wall with consoles at diagonal angles, cast-iron firebasket and grate. Rococo framing to wall panels, most ornate to door to entrance hall opposite, which is set in Tudor-arched recess. Rococo applied ornament to spandrel panels, and within recess around door and to door itself (plain 6-panel to other side). Big end-wall bay window with panelled shutters and ornate applied rococo ornament including openwork framing to rectangular opening, mouldings to soffit within and extremely elaborate openwork pelmet. Plaster ceiling in panels outlined by neo-Jacobean moulded bands, with openwork centre pendant around moulded rose.
Entrance hall has oval ceiling panel in Jacobean style, two doors to left, one in deep reveal, and one to right in deep reveal. Right wall has full-height carved wood fireplace surround in C18 style, possibly altered early C18. Fluted pilasters, cornice with scrollwork and shell, and in the panel framed by the pilasters, a big carved roundel with stag's head and festooned drapes. Minimal bolection-moulded fireplace surround, to C20 radiator. Two plastered chamfered Tudor arches at end, the left one connecting to a link to C20 addition with Tudor door with carved spandrels, the right one opens into stair hall Door on right of fireplace gives onto second drawing room which has Jacobean-style ceiling with lozenge panels and winged cherub heads, strapwork in cornice, Tudor-style niches in canted angles and Tudor-style fireplace with quatrefoil detached shafts and fine cast-iron Gothic fire-basket. Two 6-panel doors.
Stair hall has big open well stair up 3 floors in 6 flights with 2 landings, neo-Jacobean possibly incorporating original elements. Big carved square newels with finials and pendants, carved closed string, heavy turned balusters, and moulded rails. Panelled undersides, matching dado panelling. Six-panel door to right to 1930s marble-lined bathroom, marble basin surrounds. Two long windows with transoms and 4 stained glass windows with re-used glass, one with Charlemagne, second with shield, third possibly C17 royal arms lions of England and lilies of France, fourth with crowned arms and R below.
From refectory doorway to left narrows within reveal to plain 6-panel door to passage running E. Passage has on left (N) a 6-panel door into former serving-room with plain Tudor-arched fireplace, half-glazed door to service area and 6-panel door to cupboard. Bank of cupboards around door; and a Tudor arch to exterior (now an internal courtyard). On right (S) is 6-panel door in panelled reveal into dining room.
Dining-room is Tudor-style but the carving more mid C19 with fine Gothic detail to panelled doors and brass door-fittings. Walls are panelled to level of door heads, in 3 tiers with square quatrefoils to middle panels, upper panels have cusped heads. Heavy corbelled cornices with fretwork cresting and finials over each door. One door in centre of entry wall, 2 on left end wall flanking massive Tudor-arched sideboard recess with carved spandrels and panelled reveals. Upper end has painted stone Tudor fireplace with pierced spandrels, half-ocatgonal piers, and cusped lattice frieze. Inner fireplace frame with ogee shoulders and fine Gothic cast-iron fire-basket. Overmantel has panelled back under shallow cove on chamfered posts, with Tudor arch, carved spandrels, cresting and finials. Rectangular frame to French window of 4 lights with top lights and shutters in equal-sized panel each side. Ceiling in panels the ribs on thin pierced cusped brackets. Deep panelled timber frieze below ceiling, with thin openwork brackets to ribbed and panelled ceiling, the main panels with carved bosses to intersections. Three big square panels down centre, two with eight-pointed star ribbing and centre one with square panels and massive centre octagonal panelled pendant with ball. Sides have six cusped smaller panels with armorial shields. Rectangular French window with top-lights, large shutters each side
First floor landing has two 6-panel doors, one in deep reveal to main bedroom, other to left to marble-lined 1930s bathroom. Main bedroom (St Peters) in crosswing has Jacobean-style plaster ceiling with flat ribs centre rose and applied floral decoration. Scrolled decoration to cornice. Tudor-style fireplace. A Tudor arch from landing leads onto smaller landing with 2 6-panel doors to bedrooms, St Josephs and St Annes, St Josephs with neo-Jacobean ceiling rose, cornice and plain Tudor fireplace. On stair wall between first and second floors is William Etty's very large painting of St Joan of Arc dedicating herself to France, exhibited at the Royal Academy 1847 and purchased for £2,500.
Attic floor has two 6-panel doors, marble-lined 1930s bathroom.

Reasons for Listing

Graded II* as an early and very elaborate Tudor revival country house.

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